Remembering our freedoms

by John Hawkins

On Thursday, we will be commemorating Veterans Day and taking the opportunity thank those who provided military service to our country. But this day should not just be just about the veterans.

It should be a day for us to celebrate the hard-fought battles that meant soldiers and their families would sacrifice a chance to be together so that you and I can still read a free press … so that we can sit around and watch television shows, call our families, meet in restaurants or any one of the thousands of things we can enjoy all because of the men and women who have performed the difficult task to fight for our liberties – and others’ liberties – in lands far away from home.

I am what became known as a “Baby Boomer,” having been born shortly after WWII. Growing up, I was aware that my dad had been a bombardier on a B-17 in the 322nd squadron but I never understood or cared much about it. I didn’t know what that meant. I remember my mom, brother and I huddling about the telephone when we got a call from dad in Korea because for him, the war continued into the ’50s.

Recently, I watched a History Channel program about the B-17 crews – in particular, the bombardiers and how they were alone in a glass bubble below the nose of the plane with no protection and open to enemy fire and flack.
Of the 12,731 “Flying Fortresses” that were built, 4,735 were lost – a 54 percent casualty rate. That means these brave men had less than a 50-50 chance they’d come home to their families.

My dad, Lt. John G. Hawkins, was one of the 46 percent who were able to come home. All my life, Dad was nervous, jumpy, short-tempered and had a constant tremor. As a son, I resented him as many sons resent their fathers growing up. As I grew older, however, I became more patient and slowly began to understand the reasons behind these symptoms.

My dad developed dementia and eventually passed away several years ago. I wish I had understood more about what he did for me, my brother, mother and indeed, all of us. I wish I could have the chance to thank him and show my appreciation.

So, on this Veteran’s Day, don’t let the opportunity pass to thank our veterans for their service. And don’t just let it be just a catch phrase … really mean it!
Shake their hand and know that their service is the very reason we are living in a free country today.